E100 – June 25, 2017

“Starting Over” – Genesis 6:5 – 7:24

Pentecost 3 – June 25, 2017


There’s a true story about a group of musicians – fiddlers, guitarists and even someone playing spoons – that were playing an outdoor event on my driveway earlier this month. The musicians hadn’t really practiced together, and one of the songs got off to a rocky start, and soon some were playing at different speeds, or were at different places in the song. Once they were playing, it was hard to fix, to get everybody on track at the same place at the same time. Somebody recognized the problem, called everybody to stop, and the group simply started the song over from the very beginning.


Two weeks ago, we heard about God composing the song of creation, setting everything in motion… and it sounded and was very good. Last Sunday, with their disobedience, Adam and Eve got humanity off tune, out of time, and on a tangent… from “image of God” holiness to “mutiny against God” sinfulness. As the world became populated with more and more people, the world became infected with more and more sin, because original sin meant that everybody wanted to play their own music. By the time we get from Genesis 3 to Genesis 6 in the Bible, the world was a messy, sinful place – no harmony whatsoever. God decided that, instead of trying to fix it and get everybody playing in tune again, He would start over. That’s what we hear about today, in Part 1 of the story of Noah and the Flood.


  1. Sin Saddens God (and there are consequences)

The first thing we want to note is that sin saddens God. We heard in the story of Adam and Eve that there was only one command, only one forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, and that command came with a clear and explicit consequence: “When you eat of it you will surely die.” God was grieved when they did succumb to the temptation of Satan and ate of that fruit, and God’s discipline was declared, “To dust you will return.”

When Cain, the first-born of Adam and Eve, killed his brother, Abel, God was again saddened, asking “Where is your brother?” Cain’s attempt to justify himself came in the form of a question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” You can tell by the way he phrased the question that he expected the answer to be “No, you don’t have to keep track of your brother.” But in reality, God’s expectation of Cain and of us is “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper!! You are called to love your neighbour as yourself. You are expected to have compassion and show care to all.” The consequence was that Cain was under a curse, that the land would not yield crops for him, and that he would be a restless wanderer, a fugitive on the earth.

A few chapters later, the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah had developed such a notorious and sinful reputation – not just on earth, but also in heaven. The Lord said, “The outcry against them is great, their sin is grievous.” Even after Abraham whittled God’s mercy for those cities down to just 10 righteous people, there still weren’t enough righteous people to save those cities and God destroyed them with heaven-sent fire.

In the story for our consideration today, we hear humanity’s spirituality report card in Genesis 6:5 – “EVERY inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart was ONLY evil ALL THE TIME!” Verse 11 expands: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” (Boy, as sophisticated as we think we are today, I’m not sure that we’ve learned anything; I think God might have the same assessment of the earth today). God’s evaluation of humanity’s wicked rebelliousness led Him to determine and state the harsh consequences for that sin in Genesis 6:7: “I will wipe mankind from the face of the earth.”


Some people today still figuratively look over their shoulders thinking that God is just waiting to catch them doing something wrong, and then punishing them. And they think that every sin will be meted out with a certain penalty or punishment – physical or emotional. “I broke my arm because I lied about my co-worker. God’s making my wife sick because of the way I lived when I was young.”

But there is one verse in between verses 5 & 7, and that’s verse 6. It describes God’s heart in all this disobedience. “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” Can you hear the emotion He expresses at how human beings, the crown of His creation, those made in His own image, have treated each other and how they have treated Him?

If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. Our daughter, Kara, was about 5 or 6 years old when our family went to a roller skating rink in Winnipeg for the first time. I was holding her hand so that she could keep her balance and get the hang of being on skates. It wasn’t long before Little Miss Independent insisted that she could do it herself. I didn’t think she was ready, but no amount of rationalizing could convince her. So, against my better judgment, I let go of her hand and off she went… for about 8 or 10 feet. Then she fell down right on her backside, and tears flowed freely while I tried to console her. My heart, too, was filled with pain, but she wanted to go it alone, and that defines selfish sinfulness. Against God’s better judgment, He, too, let go of humanity’s hand and off they went… into sin, which ultimately hurt them and Him.


We have just come through Mother’s Day (last month) and Father’s Day (last week). If you are a mom or a dad, you know what it’s like when your child does something or is about to do something that you know is potentially self-harming – climbing a tree, jumping off from high playground equipment, hitting things, breaking toys, and later… things like anorexia. It grieves you to see your child doing those things and getting hurt, and sometimes there are consequences, and sometimes you must discipline him/her for their actions.


The consequences for EVERY inclination being ONLY evil ALL THE TIME, the result of a corrupt earth that was full of violence, was that God was going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life and every creature. It would be a complete wipe out, and a starting over. For 40 days and 40 nights, the heavens were going to send rain down from above, and besides that the springs of the great deep were going to burst forth from below. The entire earth would be covered with water. Only one man – Noah and his family… 8 in all – would be saved in the great ark that God was instructing him to build – 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Along with them, God would bring two of every kind of living creature – male and female – to keep those species alive through the flood. Seven, or maybe seven pairs, of the clean animals would be taken onto the ark, for some animals would be needed for food, and Noah would also need some clean animals for a burnt offering of thanksgiving after the flood. When you think of how harsh was God’s action, you can imagine how wicked were the people of Noah’s time?


  1. Obedience pleases God

Let’s talk about Noah for a while. In contrast to the wicked lives of his contemporaries, Noah’s Godly life was a powerful witness. Genesis 6:8 says that Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord, and verse 9 explains that he was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Genesis 6 concludes by saying that “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

Noah obeyed God, even when he didn’t understand, even when it was difficult. When he didn’t understand… “It’s going to rain that much? We hardly get any rain here. A boat that big? How’s it going to float?” When it was difficult… “Noah, that’s quite the mid-life crisis you got going there! Noah, it’s time to dismantle that neighbourhood eyesore, you’re devaluing our properties. Noah, look, I see a cloud, there, in the distance.”

But Noah was undeterred. He obeyed, and completed the ark and finally the day came when God invited him into the ark, and God said again, “I have found you righteous in this generation.”


We don’t talk so much about obedience. Some churches may, but we realize obedience is not the way for us to appease or please God. We talk more about God’s grace for the times of our disobedience. But ‘obey’ and ‘obedience’ are Biblical words and concepts, and we need not be afraid to talk about them – in the right context.

As Christians, we do not follow the Old Testament regulations appointed for the Israelites, but we still consider the Ten Commandments to be our moral law.

Look at these statements about obedience written by the New Testament apostles:


“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” – James 1:22

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” – Hebrews 11:6

“This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” – 1 John 5:3

“Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him.” – 1 John 3:24


And here is what Jesus, Himself, said about obedience:

“Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” – Luke 11:28

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – John 14:15

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…” John 15:10

“You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48


Remember that obedience does not make us right with God, for we are never perfectly obedient, and we still sin. It is God’s grace in Christ that makes us right with Him. I’ll say more about that in a minute.


Sometimes we talk about the three uses of the law – God’s law, not civil law. First, the law helps to control violent outbursts of sin and keeps order in the world. Think of it as a fence around the things we shouldn’t do. Second, the law accuses us and shows us our sin. Think of it in this sense as a spiritual mirror. Third, the law teaches us Christians what we should and shouldn’t do to lead a God-pleasing life. Think of it as a guide or a rule. Obedience for us Christians falls under this third use of the law. God shows us how He expects us to live, and asks us to live in obedience to those expectations.  Even when we don’t understand God’s entire plan, like Noah, God still calls us to obedience. Even when it is difficult, when everybody else in the world is doing this, that or the other thing, when we feel like we’re swimming upstream against society, God still calls us to be faithful and obedient to His rules.

  1. God is a God of new beginnings

One more thing to process from this story of the flood is that God is a God of new beginnings. He started His symphony with two. Then when everybody got off tune, God started again with a full octave of eight. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks, that God would go back to two again, narrowing His faith family to just Abraham and Sarah – with no children in sight. There were stops and starts, both nationally and personally with various people throughout the Bible’s history. But God was always willing to start over.

So, it really only establishes a pattern that, after the flood, God made some new beginnings with Noah and his family.  Noah may have found grace and favour in the eyes of the Lord, but he was not perfect, he was still sinful. So, we find that, before the Bible’s story of Noah was complete, Noah got drunk on his own wine, and lay naked in his tent. Oh, Noah, Noah, Noah!! And then Ham, the mischievous middle son, witnessed his father’s drunken nakedness and told his two brothers about it. Ham, Ham, Ham! God may have made new beginnings, but sin continued right through every one of them.

But one new beginning is decisive. That new beginning was the one made in Jesus Christ. Because He was both man and God, He did not inherit the sinfulness of humanity, but He was the man that God intended for all of us to be – in God’s image, perfect, loving, and holy. He spoke, acted and lived love and grace as He interacted with people.

His grace-full words included these ones:

“I don’t condemn you,” and “You are my friends,” and “Today salvation has come to this house,” and “You will be with me in paradise,” and “Your sins are forgiven.”

His loving actions included these ones:

Talking to a Samaritan woman, touching a leper, being touched by / anointed by a sinful woman, holding and blessing little children, hanging around with sinners and tax collectors, dying on the cross for ALL sinners!

And those words and actions ALL indicated new beginnings for people.

Gospel writer John wrote about that new beginning: “To all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God,” with the implication that those who are… do.

St. Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.”

And in one of only six New Testament verses that refer back to the flood, St. Peter wrote about the spiritual newness that comes in Baptism, “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…”

And those new beginnings in Jesus have a new and different and wonderful ending – not “you shall surely die,” and not “I will blot out every living thing that I have made from the face of the earth.”

God’s new beginnings for us in Jesus have this ending: “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die,” and “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,” and “nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

A couple of weeks ago, when our fiddlers started over, there was a different ending, too – all played together, and audience applause. When God makes new beginnings with us in Jesus, there is a different ending – our eternal applause/praise of God. Amen.

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